• Published 21st Jan 2021
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Mysteries of Equestria - Vertigo22

A collection of various mysteries from around Equestria bundled into a strange little magazine. So come along and take a deep dive into the world of the fortean, dear reader!

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1. The Phantom of the Road

Hello, dear reader and welcome to the one and only place you’ll ever need to learn about anything and everything strange in Equestria: Enigmatic Equus. This is issue #2,021. As always, I am your writer: Bizarre Symbols, unicorn by day, unicorn by night, and unicorn by… every other conceivable time of the day.

You see, unlike other news outlets, magazines, books, and telegrams that you can read from while waiting at the checkout at your local market, Enigmatic Equus likes to give you the nit and gritty of the weird side of this glorious land. We aren’t some half-baked sensationalist rag that writes about goofy stuff like Fancy Pants being a lizard pony or some nonsense like that. No, we get to the heart of the oddities that make up most of our kingdom. We’re hard hitting journalism if journalists investigated why a diamond store was robbed of one hundred million bits!

Wait, I think they did do that.

Anyways, now that my self narration is done and my superiors are on the verge of firing me, let’s get down to business. For this edition of our glorious magazine, we’ll be taking trips to all sorts of places! To start things off, we’ll head to what one would think is No Pony’s Land. It’s a place where many go to traverse, but few think twice about because it comes across as nothing special.

Tucked away in a small region of Equestrian where not a soul resides, and cutting through a thick forest, is a road called Shadow of Nightmare Road. It’s a place one only travels when commuting to and from the hustle and bustle of Fillydelphia. Quite a weird name for a road, but there’s also Helltown, Pissville, and Icicle Massacre Avenue. So what makes this road so special?

Well, let’s start with its name’s origin. It isn’t known to anyone, though many have theorized about it. The oldest and most prominent idea posited is that it was Princess Celestia, who named it in a fit of sorrow shortly after she banished Princess Luna. The reason she named this particular road was its lonely, desolate feeling; she had been traveling down the road while enroute to Fillydelphia for a meeting.

Of course, there isn’t any proof to back this up. I know, a real shocker in the realm of this magazine ’s publication history. Lucky for us, there’s another theory. You see, Others have said that the name was given even before the now famous banishing of Luna. There’s a popular claim that an enigmatic figure known only as R. C. Chrillingson named the road as a poetic reminder that darkness surrounds us all, but we are the light to someone else; that we will guide them to happiness.

The third and final theory I’ll go over—since I don’t want to go over a dozen variants of “a drunk stallion said to name it something stupid” (fight me, editor-in-chief what's-your-face)—is that the name originates from a game of Scrabble. Yes, really. Two politicians were playing a game of Scrabble in Fillydelphia when one made the sword “Shadow” and the other made “Nightmare”. They then decided the combination sounded really cool, so they named a long stretch of road “Shadow of Nightmare”. The original name for the road was Walnut of Hyper Love Boulevard.

I don’t get paid enough to make things like that up, so please don’t send hate mail saying I did.

Whatever the case may be, one thing is for absolute certain: there’s something that’s residing on the road, and it’s a really spooky fellow. It’s known as the Phantom of the Road. Oh baby, that sends a chill rushing up and down my spine.

Oh wait, that’s a centipede. Ew!

Ahem, well, anyways, let’s get to the story. You see, legend says that, when Princess Luna was banished, the shadow of Nightmare Moon enveloped Shades of Nightmare Road, casting it in darkness for seven days. In that time, not even the brightest of flames could illuminate the area; all lost in there were damned to die a thousand deaths. When the eighth day came, a search party consisting of the most elite guards from Celestia’s own personal guard went out to inspect the road. What they found was an entire town where a great many ponies were swiftly buried and their families compensated for their deaths. This town—nicknamed Sunshine—has become a national landmark, though the “official” reason for its ghost town status is that a famine struck during the Great Plague and the residents all died.

Most contemporary accounts say that the anguish felt by Princess Luna was so great, a fragment of it was jettisoned down to our planet and now resides on Shadow of Nightmare Road. This fragment took on a life of its own, becoming the Phantom of the Road, a formless being with a black cloak. The only discernible color are two glowing red eyes that would bore their way into the soul of whoever sees it.

A classic example of this is that of Sky Dancer, a Pegasus who feared little. A skeptic by nature, she was beloved by most. As it would turn on, the near universal love for her ended at the Phantom of the Road, who didn’t take kindly to her attempts to have it show itself.

“It was Nightmare Night and Sky wanted to prove that the Phantom didn’t exist,” an anonymous source close to Sky told us. “We went to the road to see if the Phantom would appear and Sky had this genius idea to use one of those stupid Ouija Boards. Real typical of my sist—a close friend of many years.”

The anonymous pony cleared his throat and continued, a stern look on his face. “Anyways, she asked me to contact the Phantom with her, so we did the whole schtick of asking the spirit to reveal itself and yadda yadda yadda.” The source made a bunch of silly faces at this point that made me think they’d become possessed. Luckily, they weren’t, and they instead continued. “So after a bit of nothing happening, I stood up, only to feel a horrible chill run up my spine. Like, I get it was October, but this was the kind of cold I’d expect from the Arctic, y’know? It was just dreadful.”

I nodded in agreement and shivered myself. I grew up in a really cold area of Equestria, so I knew exactly what he was talking about. Subzero temperatures are nothing to mess with. “So what exactly happened after you felt this chill?” I asked.

“Well, I looked at Sky’s face and saw her mouth hanging open,” the source answered. “Truth be told, I knew exactly why and despite that, I still felt a great deal of fear. I knew the Phantom was behind me, I could feel its gaze boring into my soul, and I knew that it was likely not that thrilled we tried to contact it. It was surreal really; I never imagined that the knowledge that something paranormal was physically—or as physically as could be when it’s a ghost—near you could still be horrifying.”

I nodded. “So I’m guessing after that you two ran?”

“Oh yeah,” the source answered. “We left the Ouija Board, though it was thrown at us; it hit Sky on the head and she did this silly little dance before falling over.”

“Wait, how’d you get her out?” I asked.

“I dragged her, all the while I stared at that horrid Phantom,” the source said. “That thing’s eyes are forever burned into my brain, like a branding iron was shoved into it.”

After that, the interview ended, not the least of which was because someone returned home and chased me out like an unwanted fly. I could hear a bunch of commotion on my way out and I think a lamp was thrown. Pretty interesting story though, wouldn’t you say? I’d say so.

Anywhoozle, the second story about the Phantom of the Road that’s often been shared is that of Bee Keeper, a now kindly old mare whose encounters have been featured in this magazine before. She’s the one who has had encounters with The Big Indigo Stallion of Amph Thear and Mothstallion if you’re a new reader (the former was featured in issue #1,976 and the latter was featured in #1,991).

Bee Keeper wasn’t available for comment, likely because she’d died last month from old age. Luckily, I got in contact with her grandson, who told me to stop contacting her. As such, I had to go off of a third-hand source, who said that the encounter took place seventy-four years ago when Bee was twenty-eight. She was walking down Shadow of Nightmare Road at about the dead of midnight when she heard a wail from behind her. When she turned around, she saw a cloaked figure floating towards her at a remarkably quick pace. Before she knew it, the figure had encompassed her and a shrill shriek filled the air. Then, everything was silent, and she was alone.

I have no idea if this story is accurate given it doesn’t come directly from Bee herself, but it sounds like a heck of an encounter if it is real! And before anyone sends in fan mail telling me that I’m no better than the tabloid of tomfoolery known as High Noon’s Sharpener and that I should verify with other sources, I did. Guess what? They all said they couldn’t verify it on any level other than having heard it from the source I originally got it from. So, if nothing else, his story is consistent.

Moving on though: the most famous encounter with the Phantom took place four hundred years ago. An unnamed farmer was traveling down Shadow of Nightmare Road one night, on his way to deliver his recent harvest to the then budding city of Fillydelphia. During his travel, he heard a most terrible wail; one that shook him to his bones. When he turned around, he saw the floating cloak; eyes described as being the most terrible sight one could ever bear witness to. While some called him melodramatic, others backed up his claims and those who doubted him went to investigate themselves, only to return and immediately apologize.

One of these ponies’ stories stuck out though, that of another farmer by the name of Apple Pie. When he returned, he claimed there was not one, but three phantoms, all of whom shrieked and chased him back to Fillydelphia.

That account is the one and only time—as far as I’m aware at least—that more than one Phantom was ever seen. This is important as some who’ve gone to investigate the Phantom have never returned, spawning the belief that it was consuming their souls to become stronger, with a modern belief among paranormal enthusiasts arising that the Phantom became the Tantabus. Though it’s possible those who’ve gone missing simply got lost in the woods; most who return are simply shaken up and say the Phantom shrieked and chased them, never appearing to have any desire to hurt them.

So where does that leave us now? Well, I hold no stance on the entity becoming the Tantabus (heck, I barely know what it is; I don’t keep up with the latest happenings here in Equestria). Though if you were to ask me what I believe the Phantom is, I’d say I do genuinely believe it to be some sort of fragmented sorrow that came to life. Though I mean, is that much of a surprise? I’m the pony who said he thinks that Mothstallion is really an alien and that the Vampire of the Everfree is some blood drinking, cattle killing monster that escaped a warlock’s home.

Though I digress, I wasn’t willing to end this story off on such an uneventful note. So, I went out and bought a Ouija Board. My goal? To contact the Phantom myself. After getting a train ticket, I went to Shadow of Nightmare Road and realized that you need at least two people to play with it. So, I got a ticket back and asked my marefriend—Daisy—to come along with it. I also grabbed my friend Tom. Who’s Tom? He’s Tom, stop sending letters asking why he’s named Tom.

So anyways, we went to Shadow of Nightmare Road and decided to begin playing once we were about three hundred down the road. I yanked the board out and we sat around it, the cool breeze blowing against us.

“Oh Phantom,” I began, “where the heck are you and why don’t you show yourself?”

“Quit being a jerk,” Daisy replied.

“Yeah, Bizarre,” Tom added. “My marefriend would’ve killed me if I’d said that!”

I said, remembering how Tom’s dating some uptight—wait, this isn’t necessary.

Well, anyways, I apologized to the Phantom and rephrased my original question.

“Oh, Phantom,” I began once more, “please show yourself so I can offer you an apologetic hug. Ooh-woo.”

This time, the board flew up into the air and a shrill shriek filled the air. Out of nowhere, the Phantom embraced me and then flew off.

Daisy looked at me.

Tom looked at me.

I looked at me.

The Phantom had left a mirror in front of me, a sizable scratch on my cheek.

Without a word, the three of us left and swiftly returned home; on the train though, I decided it’d be a smart idea to head to the bathroom and clean out my boo-boo. Otherwise, I simply sat in my seat, staring out the window, and wondering to myself what the heck had just happened. Several weeks later and to be honest, I still don’t know what happened. I sometimes think I got really drunk and watched some Ghost Expedition episode that made me think I was experiencing a real ghost hunt.

Whatever the case may be, I think it’s safe to say that, without an explanation, I definitely believe the Phantom of the Road to be a real thing—unless of course someone can explain what happened. So if you want to send in some fanmail, I’d be happy to read it and respond!

Until I get that mail though, we’ve got many more stories to go over, so let’s not waste time dilly-dallying with aimless rambling. So how about we turn the page to see another of Equestria’s famous occupants: a monster so ferocious, some say that Princess Celestia herself fears it.

Author's Note:

This chapter was pre-read by Milk_Barcast and FourShadow. Thank you both so much.

As for this mystery, it’s loosely inspired by the real life road Shades of Death, located in New Jersey. The road is infamous not only for its name, but several paranormal events, such as ghostly mists, supposed occult activity, and several eerie polaroid photographs that were found there.